‘Slezak will not be back at Limmud-Oz’
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‘Slezak will not be back at Limmud-Oz’

OUTSPOKEN Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigner Peter Slezak may be speaking at Limmud-Oz this year, “but it will not happen again”.

OUTSPOKEN Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigner Peter Slezak may be speaking at Limmud-Oz this year, “but it will not happen again”.

That was the message from one of Sydney Jewish community’s most senior leaders, Peter Philippsohn, this week, ahead of the three-day festival of learning that starts this Saturday.

JCA president Philippsohn was scheduled to address Limmud-Oz, but pulled out last week. “I would not tell the organisers who to invite, but I don’t want to be a speaker at the same event as Peter Slezak,” he told The AJN.

Last Sunday night, meanwhile, Philippsohn told more than 400 people at JCA’s communal event that he and NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) president Yair Miller had met with Limmud-Oz organisers, who agreed they had included speakers who “have crossed the line”.

According to Philippsohn, anyone who has questioned Israel’s right to exist, who denies or abuses the memory of the Holocaust, or who leads a BDS ­campaign should not be given a platform at communal events.

“The Limmud board has agreed to work with the leadership of our community to develop guidelines that preclude these people from being given a voice in our community,” Philippsohn said.

As well as being a vehement critic of Israel, Slezak recently told The AJN that he believes that Jewish people use the Holocaust to excuse Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people.

Stressing he is happy to participate in a vigorous debate, Philippsohn said: “I will listen to anyone who is a card-carrying member of our community and disagrees with some of Israel’s actions, but that is not the case here.”

In a statement released on Wednesday, the JBOD said it “does not consider that Dr Slezak is somebody who has a constructive or positive role to play in any communal event. Dr Slezak, who describes himself as a ‘self-hating Jew’, is entitled to free speech; he is not entitled to have the community provide him with the facilities to put his views or the audience to listen to them.

“We accept that the Limmud board made a conscientious decision  in accordance with acceptance criteria it had developed and adopted. The Limmud board has offered to consult further about the acceptance criteria and the Board of Deputies last night resolved to convene that process.”

Asked by The AJN to confirm they would not accept Slezak as a speaker in future, the Limmud-Oz board didn’t directly answer the question. However, they released a statement which read, “We acknowledge the principle of red lines and are open to working in a consultative manner to determine where they might lie in the future.”

JOSHUA LEVI

Outspoken Israel critic Peter Slezak.

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